Jack Tame: Health Minister's outing proves rules aren't clear

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Apr 2020, 10:13AM
Photo / ODT

Jack Tame: Health Minister's outing proves rules aren't clear

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Apr 2020, 10:13AM

When I saw the Health Minister David Clark had been for a mountainbike ride, I knew immediately he’d be in trouble. That’s dumb, I thought, not a good look. 

But I’ll be honest with you. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure exactly what he’d be in trouble FOR. Was he in trouble for riding a bike on a track which, yes, is in a mountainbike park, but is classified as being ‘easy’ terrain? A track that is more-or-less an undulating dirt path which kids and families are comfortable riding along? Was that the problem? That he might fall and hurt himself?

Because I can tell you right now, there are thousands of cyclists riding every day in New Zealand right now. Some of them ride fast. Some of them ride down hills. There must be hundreds every day, including me, who do a few laps up and down Maungawhau Mt Eden. Is that really any less risky?

So, was the Minister of Health in trouble for riding in a Mountainbike Park? Or was he in trouble for driving a couple of kilometres to the park in the first place?

You see, I honestly thought the driving was as much of a problem as the path and the ride. From listening to police advice, I understood that we are allowed to exercise, so long as we stay within our local area. We can only drive to a place to exercise if we stay local. But what’s local? Surely, I thought, if the bike park isn’t close enough to his home for the minister to bike to in the first place, instead of taking his sign-written van, surely that’s NOT a local area!’ I thought. After all, if he wanted to exercise, why not ride his bike to the park? It’s like taking the elevator to the gym.

So. Was David Clark in trouble for driving to exercise? Was he in trouble for riding on a mountainbike path?Or maybe there was a third option. Maybe David Clark was in trouble for both of these things?

These are fiddly little details and in the scheme of things this is hardly the most pressing issue we all face at the moment. Except that all of us are considering these rules every day. And when it comes to rules and communication on where we are and aren’t allowed to go, I think the mountain biking minister speaks to a bit of confusion. For the most part, especially compared to the likes of Australia and the United States, the messaging from our health officials and government has been superlative. Crisp and clear. But with this exercise thing, it’s been a little fuzzy. They haven’t come out and simply said ‘The only time you can drive is to the supermarket or to access essential services.’

No. Instead all of us are being asked to use our better judgement at the moment. We’re all being asked to use common sense. And when we can’t trust the judgement of the Minister of Health of all people, well, it makes me a bit anxious about the just how effective this lockdown will be.

In the coming days we should get a better sense of exactly how well Alert Level Four is working in reducing our coronavirus count. I just hope that if looks to be working well, and the data shows a steady reduction in cases, we don’t get too relaxed, too early.

The more conservatively we behave, the more we err on the side of ‘it’s-probably-NOT-a-good-idea,’ the better our chances of ending this sooner rather than later.

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